Unrelenting Blogging, Running and Courage: Six Year Anniversary!

Word Press informed me today it’s my six year anniversary as a blogger.

Hard to believe this chronicle of my life still stands– I attempted to erase it once. Exes had commented, past friends were keeping tabs on me, fellow bloggers encouraged me. Thank you to those who have subscribed, followed, commented and encouraged this unrelenting literary journey! Some have left, but most have stayed.  It’s edifying.

I went through a period of wanting my life without documentation.

My emerging narrative had no focus, I felt it was a waste  of time. But as events unfolded, I found this humble blog to be a refuge.

I would write what I want, without censor or error by editors. Without deadlines.

This journey began as a public vow of accountability during Lent, to uphold my Catholicism and Lenten promises. To challenge me.

Six years ago, I was searching for meaning in a relationship with a man. I thought that was the dream I should chase. I thought my treasure would be in another’s heart– in the reflection of what he loved in me.

Now I have accepted loss in relationships that haven’t lasted. I wrote about some dates, and the struggles to combat loneliness and failed compatibility. But I kept the details away, not wanting to jinx something still evolving, nor preserve details of suitors who did not work out.

Now I have accepted uncertainty and blog when I feel compelled.

I am still restless, but have re-directed my energy. Now the relationship I feed is that with myself– and running is the mechanism driving me forth.

Now I have races and goals for which to train! The joy I find is in surpassing my doubts.

I seek my own approval, reward myself with courage.

I’m making plans without fear.

I’m still Catholic, but now I forgive myself easier. I don’t depend on Lent to hold me accountable to my own promises.

I allow myself to be human, faults and mishaps included. I enjoy Mass but it’s not the center of my life as it once was.

I’ve chosen to build my life around developing a routine of running. I’m struggling with rising early and getting to sleep early enough to maintain that schedule. But already, it’s bringing me peace.

I’ve signed up for training classes for an upcoming race, my first 10k with lots of hills. I’ve joined the local run club in my community. I’ve attended group runs. I’ve enlisted a running buddy to start soon. I’ve purchased running gear necessary. I’m learning to layer properly in differing weather so I can persevere.

I’ve also failed twice this week on something I consider major: I missed my training class Thursday, and slept through a group run this morning.

I’m worried because my next race has a time limit for me to qualify as a finisher– I usually need 1 hour and 30 minutes to run five miles. This race requires 1 hour and fifteen. I felt intimidated— but signed up anyway. Now that fee has been paid! I want that finisher’s medal.

Today as I ran, I pushed myself. I knew I had to wean my mileage and maintain it below a 15 minute mile. And I did, except for two short bouts of walking. I noticed my knees hurting by the end, 3.16 miles. But I don’t normally feel that when I’m running regularly.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting someone from our running group early. I’ll go faster.

I’ll be the runner I know is within me.

I think I’ve found something special with running.

And it’s in every road, every time I put on my shoes.

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Clap Until

your hands turn red

your hands they sting

that rhythm strong

your palms they sing!

We got harmonies down,

but apparently

our rhythm ain’t so sound.

Thus our choir director did preach

as we get up outta our seats

to stand vigilant and

step our feet up

and down, smiling

and shouting

whilst our hands dance

in time, and loud.

Took off my rings

my bracelets too

they got in the way

of the message

my palms had to say.

That gospel clap,

I’mma learn

gonna keep up fast

and raise up

my spirit along with

my joy, bubbling

up for the Lord!

Choir practice tonight! Ahhh! I love it so much.

I learned that keeping up a clap is a skill.

I’m gonna learn how to CLAP like a respectable choir member.

My First 5K!! No Looking Back

I ran a 5k this morning. The 4th Annual Theresa Lang 5K, in my hometown of Joliet, IL.

I got to say that today! My first ever. I chose this one because I was friends with the woman honored in this race– it only makes sense that her event be my first.

I felt her spirit with us when I saw a young girl in the parking lot, a volunteer, totally jazzed with energy. She was yelling and dancing and positively HOPPING with joy. She just exuded fun. That’s how Theresa was, and why she is still mourned deeply by myriad people. That jubilant spirit is why she is worthy of this event.

FIrst, it is so wonderful to wake up early, run, and then go on with my day. Like it’s just part of my routine!!

My biggest fear had been that I would tragically sleep through the race entirely. But I made it!! I started with everyone.

Second, my experience was made so much better because my close friend Jennifer signed up to support me– so I wouldn’t have to run my first race alone. She’s invited me to other 5k’s this year, coming up soon. I think it’s so cool that this is a part of our friendship– something we have in common and can do together! Plus, it’s healthy.

This was only her third 5k, so we’re both beginners. And though she can run faster than me, she never left me behind. She stayed within 5 feet and slowed down if I was really struggling. She’d ask me if I wanted to walk or run. She was very accepting of my ability, which was such a gift. My original goal had been to run the whole thing, but I didn’t. However, I’m still proud!! I finished. And I wasn’t last!

Just having someone there with me made the race so much more meaningful.

I heard there were 140 runners signed up– online, it says that I finished in 42:18, 96th place. I’ll take that!!! And though a 5K is supposed to be 3.1 miles, somehow my Nike Running app calculated us at 3.42 miles? I’m not complaining!

When it started I was pretty intimidated– it seemed like most of the runners passed me up right away. But I took the advice of Jen, who told me to just run steady, that we’d end up passing a good amount of them who would be walking and etc.  And she was never annoyed when I had to slow down. But she would also encourage me to go faster.

When I had to walk or was losing motivation, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to look behind me. It didnt’ matter who was back there– it only mattered that I keep going!!

She also tried something out of her comfort zone– for the first time, she ran without music. She wanted to get the full experience of the other runners. I didn’t have music either.

And considering that I ran late last night and didnt’ get enough sleep, I think I performed extremely well. Lesson learned for the future: NO RUNNING the night before a race!!

I’ll continue running 5K’s, and I will continue to grow in ability and endurance.

Running is a skill and a passion for me.

Today is such a milestone!!

Probably the best was taking a few pictures after the race, with Jen and I, one of me alone with my arms in the air– holding that gloriously cold bottle of ice water. And one of me near the “Start” sign.

Theresa Lang’s 5K today marked the beginning of my official running life.

I’ve already got my eye on another next month!!

A Soul on Fire! Singing, Sushi and Running

This was a great week for me– I gotta tell you!

Yesterday morning on the way to work I was listening to Christian radio and heard the perfect song– “Soul on Fire,” by Third Day. Even better, the lyrics talk about RUNNING!

I felt like God was telling me, “Keep it up, kiddo!” That’s the song I’ll be thinking of as I run.

It was a bit chilly tonight but I put on a stocking cap and a hoodie and I was good to go.

I took two days off running this week, Thursday and Saturday, to give my feet a break. Eleise and I kept to our schedule of three runs, and tonight I did .96 by myself without stopping! I checked my phone at the end of the block and then kept going till I hit 1 mile! And then I walked a bit, and ran to finish my goal of 1.75 miles– I made it 1.81 by the time I got home.

I’m getting mindful of what I’m eating, as well. I had a good lunch with my Dad today after Mass, and later tonight I passed on cheesecake and coffee.

Wednesday night was our choir’s last rehearsal of the summer! I had such a good time and will miss them for the next few months! Our choir director, David, ran threw several songs so that I could get up to speed and they could review. Rehearsals are laid-back and equal parts fun and music education.

The best part of our rehearsals is always at the end, when we stand in a circle, hold hands, and pray for whomever we feel called to with our intentions, be it out loud or just in our hearts. I specifically asked if we could get all of us together after Mass today and take a few quick pictures of us looking all spiffy in our choir robes! This is also the last week we’re wearing them– they’ll be taken to get cleaned and we’ll resume them when it cools off. Although I’ll miss the pride of wearing one, I do admit it’ll be a nice reprieve in the coming heat!

The whole choir (those I’ve met, some are currently not singing right now) wasn’t quite there today, but we got most of the group who have regularly been at rehearsals since I joined. I asked a tall gentleman to take pictures of us and he did! He was kind enough to take several, and I found two I really liked. We are diverse, happy, and coming together to share our joy in the Lord! I was so proud to post it today on Facebook.

And as for the sushi, I declared last night Date Night for myself and my book and went out for sushi! Why not? I got a lot done this week! I wanted to celebrate. I put on a cute outfit, a bit of perfume, and brought a book with me. Between the meal and the words, I had a great time.

Today is just one of those days that I feel grateful, motivated, and healthy.

I’m ready for June!!

First Watermelon Cake: a little “Gordy,” but still good!

On Memorial Day yesterday, I felt like trying something new.

I decided to make plans with my parents, since they live close by. They were grilling and I needed help anyway!

My Dad is hilarious. As I was cutting out the watermelon from the rind, he kept saying “It’s gordy!” if I left any piece of the rind visible. Which cracks me up because if I eat a steak and cut off any piece of gristle, he’ll complain that I’m wasting the steak!

I had seen an easy recipe online for a watermelon cake. Normally I feel intimidated, but it looked so delicious I had to do it! It wasn’t complicated– and it was a huge hit!

I shopped and bought the ingredients I needed: watermelon, whipped cream, blue berries and raspberries. It was supposed to have almonds on the side, but I decided to scrap the almonds. In the future, maybe I’ll get some really ones and try it.

It’s been so long since I was excited about preparing food for people. Now I’m starting to understand why people do this so often!

It feels truly wonderful to serve people food– it’s like a magnet!

And I learned to set aside the stress of how it would turn out– how it would look, how it would measure up to the picture and recipe.

I learned to just ENJOY the experiment.

There weren’t detailed instructions– mostly pictures. And I didn’t look up anything, confident I could figure it out.

I bought more supplies than I needed, and hoped for the best.

Slicing the melon was the toughest part. I needed some help with that, since I don’t exactly have the most buff arms and my knife set is pretty amateur at this point. The rind was removed, though the melon itself looked more like a flower!

 

It was uneven. But I embraced my remainders and just went for it! Put the Cool Whip on, and placed the berries.

On the plate, it looked pretty good!

Image

 

And I gotta say, the Cool Whip didn’t melt. We put it in the fridge for a few hours and ate it after dinner. It was refreshing. It was fun to eat it after dinner.

But I gotta say, the most fun thing was taking the second one to a small gathering of friends. I put on a white dress, some red lipstick, and brought along some paper plates and serving. No one was expecting anything, so it was fun to be the one to bring something as a surprise. Figuring out how to slice it without it all falling apart was a fun challenge as well.

However, nothing beats seeing the pure delight in their eyes when I brought the cake in!! Even better, the way these people expressed themselves after eating their first slice. Seeing them sit back, exhale, and savor it. Others, who ate it so quickly.

Is there anything better than making food and watching people who LIVE for food enjoy it?

I think not. I’m starting to understand the real pleasure of cooking– it’s an act of service. It’s a way to connect with people.

It’s a GIFT made of love, time, planning– and it creates a memory. It’s like being a musician, and having an audience for your symphony! Writing is so isolating. But food is SOCIAL.

Until now, I’ve been a person who really enjoyed EATING food. But I’m hoping to make a transition to a person who BRINGS joy to people by making food. Yes!

Even better, sometimes it truly doesn’t MATTER how “well” the recipe turned out, or even how it looks. People just appreciate your effort– the fact that you spent time making something– for them.

So I’ve decided, I’m going to continue making this watermelon cake. Maybe I’ll work my way up to a more advanced level– there are several different ways to make it more exciting, I’ve learned!

And from there, who knows what culinary delights may evolve?!

 

“The Year of Faith” Ends, but Mine Continues

I caught a late Mass tonight.

I’m lucky to live in a very Catholic town, where I can choose which time to go.

And I’m lucky that right now, I have the luxury of going to Mass. For many years, I didn’t– I always ended up having to work. And I have to say, I think missing it did effect me. It’s been a gift to have Sundays off for the last several months, so that I could go.

I think that’s helped me to grow in faith more than anything. I understand why it’s a day of “rest.”

My faith has been tested a lot this year, and I’ve doubted more than ever. But doubt is a normal part of your faith journey, as are moments of despair. Those are called “dark nights of the soul,” and hopefully they bring us closer to God if we turn to prayer.

By admitting that other traditions are valid, I’m not invalidating Catholicism. I’m merely acknowledging that there is more than one path for us to walk in the light.

As a Christian friend of mine once said, “God doesn’t mind which house you visit him in.”

I’ve personally visited him in several houses– attending services in different denominations.

But the one that always brings me the most peace is a Catholic Mass.

Tonight, there were two families seated behind me. One was a mother with three young children, and behind her, a father with two kids? I think two. I could hear the littlest girl, maybe about 3, chattering away and playing with books. It reminded me of myself– I used to be very hyper in Mass. My parents had a challenge! But her mother was patient with her– never scolding. At one point I glanced behind and she was holding the girl in her arms, upside down, nuzzling her face. The girl was laughing with joy. And I was glad for her, glad that she has a mother that embraces her spirit rather than tries to quiet her down out of embarrassment. During peace, I shook hands with most of them. A blonde girl with her father in the second pew behind me had on a bracelet that said, “Trust.”

I had a wonderful feeling of peace, of joy.

I don’t know if the decisions I make are “right,” or not. But all I can do is make them in good faith, pray for strength, and keep walking.

Trust. The foundation for everything we need, and every hopeful interaction and decision.

This year I’ve let God into my heart in a way I never dared previously– and I’ve learned more than I ever have previously. I’ve learned to let go, to forgive, to humble myself, and to love myself and others unconditionally. To ask for, and accept, help. To give it, without being asked.

I’ve still got a long way to go.

But I’m grateful to have this chance, and even the challenges.

I’m grateful for this blog. I’m grateful for my family.

To those who have been devoted, and tho those who support me and give space when needed.

I’m grateful for self-awareness.

I’m just grateful, every day.

And that, I think, is the true gift of faith.

Objectivity and The Conservative Life

Recently, I wrote about how religion can be a damaging influence.

Tonight, I want to clarify that by saying that, I’m not putting down the idea of family or of the conservative life.

I’m not saying all religion is bad, either.

Being a former reporter, I’ve learned to look at things objectively and see both sides.

This morning I visited one of my oldest friends, who is a mother. Her little boy toddled around, and he is open and affectionate. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like, but he feels comfortable sitting with me.

I think that is a wonderful credit to her and her husband’s parenting skills, because he obviously feels very safe and is openly affectionate. I enjoyed having him snuggle up to me, and holding him was wonderful. But does that mean I will be a mom myself someday? Not necessarily.

The jury is still out on that one.

She talked with me, but always kept an eye on him as well. He clearly adores her, and she was delighted by the small things he did. He looks a lot like her also, with wild curls and many expressions that she makes. She’s a wonderful, happy woman who married her best friend and is in a marriage based on respect and equality. They talk all day long. They respect each other’s feelings, but also get out how they really feel about things as well. They’re not afraid to tell each other the truth. They both work, and support each other’s dreams. I have known her for over 15 years, and I can honestly say that marriage has made her a happier person. It’s enriched her life. She and her husband respect and love one another, and they balance each other out.

What’s interesting is that they are both also of different religions– but that was not an issue. They merged these two cultures, and did it with joy. They were in love, so they just made it happen. They are a wonderful example that you don’t have to stay within your own tradition or religion to find happiness in love, or to be happily married.

For them, marriage, family and religion are a wonderful center in their life together.

What does it mean to be “conservative?”

For many people, it’s defined by political beliefs. Many people assume that a conservative viewpoint is interchangeable with voting Republican. That’s not necessarily true.

Conservative can mean that your life is centered on family, that you don’t believe in sharing your problems with the world, that you’re careful with your money, and that you live a life of temperance when it comes to alcohol and or chemical substances.

Conservative is not necessarily a bad thing.

My friend has a phenomenal work ethic, a good job, a creative and charismatic personality that draws in everyone she meets, is a loyal friend that will never tell your secrets, and is a devoted wife and mother. She comes from a big family, and is naturally gifted as a mother. Being around her son and her family, she exudes this wonderful love. Yet, she’s also very protective when needed be. She’s not pretentious at all. She’s a big hugger. She laughs a lot.  I hold incredible admiration for her.

In some ways, she’s conservative. Yet, she also embraces and champions liberal causes.

I think all of this makes her a fantastic human being and one of my favorite people on the planet.

She’s like a sister to me.

For her, marriage has been something wonderful. She makes me believe in marriage.

Yet, there are many people who are happily single or in relationships but unmarried, who choose not to have children, who choose to focus on career, art, or travel or who don’t believe in religion. And they are equally happy, and I admire and respect them just as much.

And those choices are not any less valid.